2 suspects in $4.3M ‘ice’ bust plead guilty
Zhenlin Fang, the second defendant facing charges over the seizure and detection of methamphetamine or “ice” worth about $4.3 million, pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday.
At a change of plea hearing, Fang, 24, pleaded guilty to count 1 of the indictment charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
The offense carries a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years imprisonment, but also allows for a maximum sentence of up to life in prison. The offense also carries a maximum fine of $10 million and at least a five-year term of supervised release.
Under the plea agreement, the U.S. government and Fang agree that the appropriate sentence is 120 months or 10 years imprisonment in a U.S. Bureau of Prison facility.
Fang also agrees to forfeit the $2,280 that was seized from him and co-defendant Yuliu Liu on July 22, 2015.
Attorney Steven Pixley served as court-appointed counsel for Fang. Assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe appeared for the U.S. government.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona vacated the jury trial set for Jan. 26, 2016, and set the sentencing hearing for April 22, 2016, at 9am.
Fang was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal.
Last week, Liu, 36, pleaded guilty to count 1 of the indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. The offense has the same penalty as the offense that Fang pleaded guilty to. Under the deal, Liu agreed to a sentence of 120 months or 10 years imprisonment in a U.S. Bureau of Prison facility. Liu will be sentenced on April 22, 2016, at 9am. He remains under custody.
Attorney Mark Hanson served as court-appointed counsel for Liu. Assistant U.S. attorney Backe appeared for the U.S. government.
A Customs inspector detected the “ice” inside an air compressor in a container from Guangzhou, China, at the seaport warehouse on Saipan last July 17. That led federal and local law enforcers to make a follow-up investigation that ended with the arrest of Li and Fang last July 22 when they picked up the air compressor at the Sunleader Company warehouse.
Over 10,700 grams of “ice” was found inside the compressor. About 130 grams of “ice” were later discovered at Liu’s house during a search operation.
The $4.3 million worth of “ice” seized is considered the biggest drug haul in CNMI history.